When I was in my 20s, I had an urgent sense that time was running out. 30 was coming, and I better have some accomplishments by then. The sense of overwhelming urgency led me to throw hail marys rather than planning and following a process.
As I approached 30, my first business had failed, and I felt that I was running out of time. Around this time, I had the good fortune to be the guest handler for Terrance Zdunich at a convention I worked for. Zdunich had created a cult hit called Repo: The Genetic Opera, which is why he was a guest at the event.
During the course of the weekend, I mentioned to him that I was approaching 30 and felt I had nothing to show for it.
“Michael,” he said, “when I was your age, I had never ever thought of Repo.”
These words changed my life. Here I was, talking to man who had achieved some considerable success in his field, telling me that he was older than I was at the time when he even started down the road to the success I now saw.
Time wasn’t running out. The clock hadn’t even started.
In my 20s, when I spoke to Terrance, I felt like I was on the runway, but not getting enough speed to take off. Turns out that I wasn’t on the runway. I wasn’t even on the taxi way. I was still at the terminal, fuel being pumped into the plane.
My 20s was a time to learn hard lessons, develop skills, accumulate experience. My 30s was the time to refine the knowledge of my 20s into actionable information.
I moved to Eastern Connecticut at 34. I wrote Guy Who Knows A Guy at 37. Next year, I’ll be 40.
As I approach 40, I realize that, God willing, I still have more years in front of me than behind me, but that these will be the best years. It took me about three and a half decades to learn what I needed to know to get started, and another half decade to get all my ducks moving in the right direction.
The next forty years is for seeing what comes of that. It may turn out that I don’t have the right ducks or they are moving in the wrong direction, but that’s all a matter of constant refinement, rather than the need for total overhaul.
Message for 20-somethings
If you are in your 20s, and you feel like you’re running out of time, this message is for you. Unless you have a terminal illness, you have plenty of time. You have time to try things. You have time to fail a few times.
Do something. Try something. Learn from it. Roll that knowledge back in and try something else. Some people hit it out of the park during their first adult decade, but most don’t. That’s okay. You’ve got time.
Message for those over 60
Some of you reading this may be older than 40 and thinking it’s cute that I’m talking as if 40 was old. Maybe you’re 60 or 70 or even 80 and thinking that, if you had as much time as I do, you might try something, but you’re out of time.
But are you really? My first business lasted for five years. The average American lifespan is about 78 years. If you’re 60, you could start and fail three of my five year businesses and have 3 years left afterwards.
What if you’re 70 or even 80? Why not try something? What do you have to lose?
I was recently speaking to local senior living facility about organizing an entrepreneurship program for their residents. Their residents are all retired and not worrying about their day to day bills like young entrepreneurs are. They can build a business that makes $5000/year and call it a success if that’s their goal.
At every stage in life, there are tradeoffs. At 39, I have less energy than I did at 22, but at 22 I lacked the knowledge and wisdom to make use of that energy. At 80, one might have other physical restrictions and possible lack the social resources they had at 40, but they would have a freedom that I don’t at 40. No kids to raise, finances already managed, etc.
If you’ve got a few miles on the odometer, I’ll leave you with one more thought. Purpose aids longevity.
Unfortunately, I cannot find the exact quote, but I recall hearing George Burns said once that he has to live past 100 because he had a contract with a Las Vegas casino to perform past his 100th birthday, and he wouldn’t want to breach the contract.
Some people are inclined at a certain point in life to give up and just pack it in. For some, that happens at 80, others 50. However, others keep on going right up until they get their final reassignment orders to the hereafter.
If someone is happy relaxing and reading the paper every day in retirement, more power to them. But, if they are lamenting the quiet and lack of excitement, there’s no reason not to get back into the game.
If you’re reading this, you’ve still got time, no matter your age. What are you doing with it?
Business owners sometimes tell me that they do not want to do any marketing because they are so busy that they cannot service all the clients that they have now.
For small businesses a who have only a few employees, this can be a really serious problem. Going from two to three or three to four employees can be quite a headache, especially when trying to find good people. If you are in this place, and you can’t hire a new person to expand, what can you do?
There is a natural limit to how much you can grow without increasing staffing, but there may be some things that you can do which will allow you to increase your revenues by better deploying the assets you have.
Let’s take a simple example. You are a consultant that clients will pay $100 per hour for your service. You have enough clients that you are working as many hours as you want to work and possibly more. As a consultant, you are selling your skills and knowledge, so it is very difficult to hire a second person who can help do what you do.
So, you’re stuck, right? Wrong.
While it may be impossible to hire someone who can do what you get paid $100 per hour for, you can hire someone to do the stuff you don’t get paid for.
Your time is worth $100 per hour. That means that if you have to take your car into the shop and it takes 2 hours, you lost $200 of potential revenue. Could you have hired someone for $40 to take your car to the shop and wait for it? You’d be up $160 on the transaction.
What else do you do that is not your most profitable activity? Cleaning? Errands? Administrative work? Bookkeeping? Answering the phone? Look at how you spend every hour in your week. What do you do which you could hire someone else to do for less than someone will pay you? Even if it would cost $50 per hour to get someone to take a particular task off your plate, you still net $50 in the deal.
Many of us don’t think of hiring someone to help with these kinds of tasks because that seems like the kind of thing that millionaires do. Of course, millionaires do that, but anyone whose time has a high value should be doing it. If your time is worth more than the cost to hire someone to take over a task, and the task is not core to your business, then hire out the task.
Do you not have enough hours in the week to capitalize on all the opportunities in your business? Contact Michael Whitehouse. He can analyze how you are deploying your resources and see if there are inefficiencies that you can take advantage of.
A great collegeadmissionsscandal was discovered when it was revealed that wealthy and influential families were using bribes and faked test scores to get their kids into prestigious schools to which they were not entitled.
Here are five reasons why the college admissions scandal neither surprised nor upset me.
Our modern society is built on personal choice and freedom. The conventions and strictures that restricted and guided previous generations have fallen away. Social rules on everything from attire to dating to entrepreneurship have dissolved, leaving us with unprecedented opportunity, but also leaving us without guardrails and direction.
It can be exhausting to have to blaze every trail. This is why it is important to have an anchor.
In the 19th century, snake oil salesmen would travel the country selling “miracle cures.” There is actually a traditional Chinese medicine made from snake oil which has some pain relieving properties, but the snake oil salesmen of America were not so particular in selecting compounds with actual curative properties. Why go to the trouble of finding the real thing when the story will sell the product for you?
Today we see the same thing in social media. Digital social media marketing can be incredible effective if done correctly. It can be a medium cost, high bandwidth method of communicating with existing and new customers.
Like snake oil, however, most people peddling “social media marketing” wouldn’t know effective marketing if it made 12-15 impression on their face. They trade on the fact that you don’t know it either, so they flim flam you with buzzwords and fancy graphics so you don’t realize that your money is completely wasted on them.
Recently, a client asked me how branding, especially through community publications, would assist an SEO strategy. Internet marketing companies as a group are very good at convincing businesses that some form of SEO, SEM, social media, or some other kind of digital snake oil will magically transform their business. The fact remains that the fundamental principles of marketing will always apply, and these new strategies are only valuable in as far as they serve these principles.
Principle 1. People like do business with people that they know, like, and trust.
Principle 2. Customers have to be able to find your business when they need it.
For more information about services for Realtors from The Guy Who Knows a Guy, click here.
The more undifferentiated your offering, the more you need branding. The more competition you have, the more you need branding. Realtors face competition from hundreds or even thousands of competitors and seem to sell an undifferentiated product. Arguably more than any other industry, a Realtor must brand themselves in the market if they are to be truly successful.
In my business as a publisher, it is my job to know many Realtors. My publication is a great resource for them. However, out of the 1200 or so Realtors in my area, I could probably only name a few dozen. The rest have so completely failed in branding that even I, a marketing professional whose job is to seek them out, am not even aware of them.
Of course, it’s not their fault. They’ve been taught by countless seminars from companies that offer property marketing services that marketing their properties is much more important than branding and marketing themselves. While marketing properties is vital for doing your business as a Realtor, branding yourself is crucial for building your business.
As a publisher of an influential community magazine, I see a lot of non profit spotlights. Some are excellent. Some less so. While my content coordinator works directly with the content, I have learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn’t. Here are six crucial tips for making the most of your free media.
The tips below are intended to help you to keep your piece from being cut by the editor or ignored by the reader. Articles in a magazine reach a very different audience from a grant request or your web site. Your audience is sitting with a cup of coffee seeking some pleasant entertainment. This doesn’t mean that you can’t entice them to volunteer or donate, but it means that you must consider your audience if you want to reach them.
Some non profits I have encountered have difficulty writing great content because they leader feels the need to do everything. Writing is a great role to offer to a young, enthusiastic volunteer or new board member. They need to know the organization well enough to explain the mission and history, but they don’t need to have experience going back to day one. A team member may also have an unvarnished enthusiasm that is difficult for an exhausted leader to muster. Just something to consider.
1. Nobody Cares Until You Make Them
You care deeply for your cause, and you know that your organization is changing the world. Nobody else cares until you make them care. As a non profit leader, you are making sacrifices for your cause: your time, your money, your energy. It is your passion, and it can be difficult to understand why it isn’t everyone else’s. But that’s how every other non profit leader feels as well, and the public can be overwhelmed by so many causes, each of which is the “most important.”
What this means for you is that you must assume nothing. Even if you are literally saving the world, you need to accept that no one knows that. You must approach your writing from an attitude of humility. Editors will only run your article if you follow their guidelines and rules. People will only read you article if you make it interesting to them. Readers will only donate and volunteer if you capture their hearts and minds.
Simply dumping the facts on them will almost never inspire a reader to act. You must capture their imagination with compelling stories, engaging facts, and an inviting style.
Want to be sure that you are engaging your audience? Share your article with someone outside your organize who is not passionate about your cause to get their feedback. This will be give you a powerful understanding of your intended audience.
2. Facts Expire, Stories Inspire
The best articles I’ve seen have been built around stories. Humans are hardwired to love stories. It’s how we passed down history and lessons for thousands of generations.
Joseph Stalin is quoted as saying, “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.” A personal story grips the imagination, engages the heart, draws the reader. Statistics are math. 37% of statistics are made up on the spot, or they might as well be.
One of the most impactful non profit spotlights I’ve seen so far was a local horse rescue, Beech Brook Farm. They led with the heart wrenching story of an unwanted mare who was auctioned off twice, the second time while pregnant. Equine mother and child were cast into a cruel world, alone and unloved. Would they find a home? Would they even survive?
It was here that the article provided background about the rescue, what they do, and who they are. Only after that, was the story concluded with a happy ending.
Their article never asked for donations. They just shared what they did with a compelling story. Did they get donations? You bet they did!
3. Want Donations? Stop Begging.
Everyone loves to buy, but nobody wants to be sold. One of the best ways to turn off your audience is to ask them for donations. They know you need donations. They know they can donate through your website. (If they can’t donate through your website, stop reading this and put a donation button on your site right now.)
When people see something about “to donate visit our web site” or “we’re looking for donations,” they feel sold to. They feel guilty that they are not helping, which makes them want to disengage.
If your article is good, they’ll want to help, and they’ll figure out how. Instead of talking about donations, try something like “for more information…” or even “to see how you can help…”
The exception to this is if you are seeking donations for a particular purpose or need a unique kind of help. For example, if you are looking for donations of gently used children’s toys or coats, that’s something to mention. If you need to raise money for the playground you are building this summer, then it’s got a purpose.
It also okay to mention fundraising events as long as they are about more than just raising funds. Polar plunge? Cocktail cruise? Bicycle race? Hot dog eating contest? These are events that a reader might want to attend even if it weren’t a fundraiser, and they’d love to learn about it.
4. Follow The Non Profit Guidelines
If you are getting an article published, the editor is your boss. If you are given a word count of 250 words, do not send in 252 words. For pity sake, do not send in 350 words.
I know that, to you, your cause is the greatest cause in the history of all space and time. To your editor, it is one of many articles vying for space in the publication. If there are four articles for three spaces, the one that violated the guidelines is most likely to get cut.
Community publications love publishing non profit spotlights. It is great, feel good content that people enjoy reading. However, for publishing purposes, one spotlight is as good as another. Actually, that’s not true. The one that has a story and isn’t begging for donations is better than one with no story that’s all about money.
Editors are very busy, and they do not have time to go back and forth with content contributors. That’s why there are guidelines. Many editors will simply discard submissions. After all, they are giving hundreds or thousands of dollars of free publicity. The least you can do it follow the guidelines.
Guidelines does not just mean word counts. The guidelines may also include key points that they want addressed, tone and format of the article, whether you should or should not mention donations, and more. Follow them all. This is your assignment and you will be graded on it.
5. Photography Rights and Wrongs
Photos are hugely important in an article. An article with a photo is much more visible than one without. However, photography can also be one of the biggest headaches for an editor. There are two key issues: quality and rights.
Photo Quality Publications are printed at 300-600 dpi (dots per inch). Internet standard is 72 dpi. This means that your photo from Facebook needs to be printed at one eighth the size to avoid being pixelated. High quality magazines need high quality photography. Fortunately, most modern smart phones have excellent resolution, but you must make sure you are sending an uncompressed version of the photo.
A 2 inch by 3 inch image must be at least 600 by 900 pixels. A Facebook cover photo is 312 by 820. Always use the original photos.
Photo Rights Photo rights are even more important. In today’s litigious society publishers must be extremely careful about image rights. The easiest way to deal with this is to use photos you’ve taken yourself. If a photo is from a professional photographer, the editor may require a letter (or email) from the photographer declaring that they own the rights and granting permission to use them. Sometimes they will need the photographer to send an attachment so there is proof that they have rights to that particular photo.
Stock Photos Don’t send in stock photos. Stock photo sites have peculiar rights, but publications have access to their own. Your permissions are not usually transferable. If there’s a stock photo you want to use, tell them and they can find it themselves, but they cannot use you photo.
Follow the Guidelines Your editor will provide you photo guidelines for both quality and rights issues. Follow them to the letter. The photo from your friend’s Facebook page is not good enough, and there are no shortcuts.
6. More Ways to Help A Non Profit Thank Giving Money
Every non profit accepts donations, which is why it is so superfluous to talk about it. Most non profit organizations, however, can benefit greatly from other types of help: volunteering, donations of specific items and services, and even something as simple as liking and sharing their social media content.
Many people want to help, but their financial resources are limited. If you can provide them other avenues to serve your mission, they will be receptive. They might not be able to write a check, but they could give a few hours a month, especially if it is something they could do as a family.
Businesses can often provide more value in kind than they could in cash. Would you rather have 10 hours of donated legal services or a check for $500? Well, with most attorneys charging upwards of $250/hour, the offer of services could be vastly more valuable than the check.
Then there is the fact that, especially for smaller organizations, many of the donations come from board members and volunteers. Once someone has invested their time and energy into an organization, their sense of loyalty drives them to find more and better ways that they can help. Them more people you can draw into the ranks of your active supporters, the easier it will be to raise funds.
Rather than asking for donations, suggest those easy starting points that one can be involved with. Invite people to help out a few hours at an event or suggest valuable but easy ways to volunteer. Such an invitation makes your reader feel welcome and appreciated.
Best Practices for Non Profits
As a non profit, you have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars of free media. Just because you don’t have to pay for it doesn’t mean you don’t have to work for it. Most publications have far more content being submitted than they have room for. As a publisher, I can tell you that I love being able to help non profits get their message out to the community. However, it is crucial to remember that, as a non profit, you need these publications more than they need you. They could fill their pages with any variety of uplifting content, but you need to get on those pages.
Follow the guidelines, use stories, don’t beg for money, and respect the editor, and you’ll find great things will happen. Following the rules and guidelines is the best way to get this article and the next one published.